Growing intolerance behind ‘significant’ rise in complaints about air quality
A growing intolerance of pollution is causing Marlborough residents to dob in their neighbours who produce dirty or
The Marlborough District Council received 64 complaints about air pollution this winter, up 16 from last year.
The Marlborough District Council received 64 air pollution complaints this winter. CREDIT: CHLOE RANFORD/LDR
Blenheim's airshed recorded one breach of the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality, down from six in 2018.
Council environmental scientist Sarah Brand said staffers thought complaints had increased as people were becoming "less
tolerant" of air pollution.
"There's also greater public awareness around environmental issues and increased media attention of air quality issues,"
she said. "When they [residents] think their air quality is being compromised, they come to us."
Council environment protection officer Jardine Gunn said this year's number of complaints was "significantly higher"
than last year, when 48 complaints were received.
"The most common causes [for complaints] are odour issues coming from coal or other materials, like plastics, and this
smoke drift causes a nuisance," she said.
Older residents often burned coal, which was legal in Marlborough, as firewood bundles were harder for them to manage,
Complaints about smoke drifting from an outdoor burn were also common, she said.
"A lot comes from the burning of green vegetation. People get too excited and light it up," she said.
"The other one is of people burning unauthorised materials, such as household rubbish, plastics and treated timber.
"It comes back to a lack of knowledge of people not knowing what they can't burn within an airshed."
Under the Ministry for the Environment's air quality regulations, air was unsafe to breathe if it contained more than 50
micrograms of bigger air pollutants (PM10) in a cubic metre of air.
Exceeding the air quality standards was a breach of Government regulations, but the ministry allowed councils one breach
A graph depicting the number of air pollution breaches in Marlborough (yellow line), compared to the number of
complaints on air pollution in the last three years. CREDIT: CHLOE RANFORD/LDR
Air pollution in Blenheim was higher than normal in summer, and Brand thought this was because of the Nelson fires in
The ministry was considering tightening air quality regulations because it thought tinier particles of air pollution
were causing health issues - smaller particles were easier for the body to absorb - and current legislation wasn't
Councils currently had to worry about particulate matter smaller than 10 micrometres (PM10), but a review was looking at
reducing this to smaller particles under 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5).
Brand said the ministry was pulling data from councils that already recorded PM2.5 levels, such as Marlborough, to see
if regulations were needed to better control the health risk.
Under World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines relating to PM2.5, which recommended councils hit below 25 micrograms
of pollutants per cubic meter of air, Blenheim breached its standards 32 times this winter, she said.
Brand said earlier this year that Marlborough might need to add stricter fireplace regulations to its new environment
plan, due out early next year, if the ministry decided to enforce PM2.5 standards.